Title IX an unknown boon for today’s female athletes
By Tony Baranek firstname.lastname@example.org June 29, 2012 10:48PM
What the kids say ...
Taylor Johnson, Lincoln-Way East
basketball: “I heard about it for the first time on its 40th anniversary while watching a WNBA game this past week. The commentators enlightened the viewers on what it was and who it affected. In my eyes, Title IX stands for more opportunity. It’s also motivation for me.”
Danielle Dowd, Lincoln-Way Central volleyball: “Without Title IX, I wouldn’t have the opportunities that I have today in sports. I feel it’s important for everybody to know how difficult everything was for girls (before Title IX).”
Lauren Dawson, Homewood-Flossmoor golf: “I think Title IX was definitely long overdue. It’s extremely important that girls are given the same opportunities as males, because there are athletes among both genders. Without Title IX, my career would be obsolete.”
Emma Moris, Lincoln-Way gymnastics: “I had never heard of Title IX before. I am very happy Title IX was put in effect, though. If not, I would not have been able to compete for the Lincoln-Way co-op gymnastics team, which was one of my favorite things about high school.
Alexa Janus, Stagg volleyball, basketball, soccer: “Just being involved in sports my last three years, high school wouldn’t have been the same without (Title IX). I could never imagine high school without it.”
Lauren Behrens, Lincoln-Way East volleyball: “My mom would always talk about it because she was in high school when Title IX first came along. It’s nice to see that women today are on TV, and get the sports coverage as they do.”
Emily Naegele, Oak Forest softball and basketball: “I’m so happy to know about (Title IX). It brings the competitive side out of us. If we didn’t have things like conferences and state tournaments, we wouldn’t push ourselves to get better. I didn’t know that. I’m so happy I do now.”
Jill Conrad, Stagg volleyball and basketball: “I think it is really important that females get the same opportunities as males in everything, including sports. Title IX gives us girls an equal opportunity to compete, have fun, and be successful in athletics just like guys do.”
Updated: August 2, 2012 10:37AM
Title IX and volleyball have made a difference in Amber Fryer’s life.
The June graduate of Bloom Trail, by her own description, was a “bad kid” in grammar school.
“I got in a lot of trouble,” she said. “Basically, I got in with the wrong crowd and trying to do what they were doing. I didn’t walk the stage eighth grade year. I barely made it out of eighth grade.”
At the pleading of her mother, Fryer decided to try sports as a freshman.
“I tried volleyball,” she said. “I made it, but they told me that if I didn’t pick my grades up they were going to kick me off the team. I took all my books home that day, got all my work done and never had a problem again.”
Fryer went on to have a brilliant high school volleyball career, earning All-Area honors her junior and senior seasons and a volleyball scholarship to McNeese State.
“Volleyball,” Fryer said, “made me the person that I am today.”
“I don’t know what that is.”
Fryer knows now about the landmark 1972 legislation requiring that females be given equal access to educational and athletic opportunities in federally funded colleges and high schools.
Hannah Jenkins is an honors student and an All-Area softball player from Richards who will be playing on a scholarship at Loyola University. She didn’t know about the legislation’s 40th anniversary June 23, didn’t know that before Title IX there was no such thing as a Richards Bulldogs softball team.
“Oh? Wow,” she said.
Jenkins and Fryer aren’t alone.
In a survey taken of 25 area female high school athletes, just five were already familiar with the name Title IX — and some of them only after watching TV and reading articles during the anniversary weekend. Of 16 female athletes asked on the Thursday before the anniversary, only one was aware it was coming.
It’s almost as if Title IX has become not as much ancient history as forgotten history.
“I remember it was huge when it happened,” said June VerSchave, who was a coach at Oak Lawn High School when Title IX came to be in 1972. “Everybody was talking about it like it was a huge thing in the century. But now, you just kind of get into your sports and into things that are current today.”
It’s a concern, said three-time Olympic swimming gold medalist Nancy Hogshead-Makar, the Women’s Sports Foundation’s senior director of advocacy and a tenured professor at the Florida Coastal School of Law.
“In some ways, when a girl has a sports opportunity in high school she thinks she earned it,” she said. “She thinks she made the team. And if she gets a college scholarship, she earned the college scholarship.
“They should feel that they earned it. But on the other hand, they should be recognizing that without this statute, it wouldn’t have happened.”
Hogshead-Makar spent the anniversary and the days surrounding it giving public lectures about Title IX and its impact. The Women’s Sports Foundation holds national conferences and workshops in which Title IX is addressed, and has a website — womensportsfoundation.org — that explains its history.
But Title IX isn’t a required subject in high school curriculum, according to Oak Forest football coach and history teacher Brian McDonough.
“We talk about it in American Government when they’re seniors,” McDonough said. “(Boys basketball coach) Mike Brown teaches American History and I know he covers it.”
Apparently it’s not covered in many classrooms, or the girls just aren’t listening. The mention of June 23, 1972, evoked a lot of blank stares.
“Usually in U.S. History, you get to the early 1900s and then to the wars and you slide right through (Title IX),” former Oak Forest softball star (1998 to 2001) and current Lincoln-Way West softball coach Heather Novak said. “I don’t think I’d be the same person I am today without the athletic opportunities I had, but as a player, even in college, I never thought twice about any of it.”
Lincoln-Way North coach Aimee Lonigro was a star three-sport athlete at Richards when Title IX was celebrating its 20th anniversary in 1992. Even then, Title IX, for many, was forgotten history.
“I had no idea it was the 20th anniversary at the time,” she said. “I was just happy to be playing. I never really thought about how I got to that point.
“I don’t know if they teach it in our classes. To be honest, we don’t talk about it from a softball standpoint, really. I don’t know why it’s never come up. We never really bring up 20 years ago, 40 years ago.”
Kathryn Olson, CEO for the Women’s Sports Foundation, said more classroom education would awaken an appreciation of Title IX’s groundbreakers, along with an awareness of rights today’s female athletes don’t know they have.
“Just as students are taught about the 14th Amendment and the right to vote in America, girls and women should be taught about the remarkable impact that Title IX legislation has had in athletics, science, technology, engineering, math and other fields,” Olson said. “It’s important that we understand our history to set a course for the future, and that’s no different for high school and college athletics.”
And during summer vacation ...
“I want them to go to the Women’s Sports Foundation website,” Hogshead-Makar said. “Anybody can go there, and shout far and wide.”